Finding ways to make your child more independent can run the gamut. While children need to be dependent on the adults in their lives for many things to keep them safe and well cared for, part of the process of growing up is to become a little more independent all of the time. These ways to make your child more independent will help them in this process and you as well!
1. Give Them Time to Think
Especially with our little ones, it’s easy to read their minds, or so we think. Instead of finishing their sentences for them, let them do it. Learning ways to make your child more independent is a lesson for both of you. And yes, especially when they first start to learn their native language which can seem so foreign to them as it may take a while for them to form the words. Allow them to try, and it will get easier. How many things can you learn without a good deal of practice after all?
2. Clothing Options
Offer your child the option of choosing his own clothes the night before. That way, he won’t feel rushed, which can lead to him giving up on trying. If his clothes are right for the season or the even (a playdate vs. school, for example), guide him to several choices, and let him pick one of those. When he becomes more adept at understanding how to choose his clothes, he’ll become more excited about doing it. Remember how excited he was the first time he used the potty on his own? He will get the same satisfaction the first time he chooses his own clothes to wear. Just remember to make him feel good about it! As for the times he’s choosing his pj’s or clothes just to wear around the house, let his imagination lead the way without interference from you. After all, this choice can be changed at a moment’s notice, and it helps your child to understand his sense of style.
3. Dinner Ideas
Why don’t you let your child choose what to have for dinner at home every once in a while? Start off with a weekend meal, and give him a few options (grilled cheese, sloppy joes, or spaghetti, for example). After a while, let him choose whatever comes to mind. This will help him to think for himself more, and to listen to his own cravings. These are skills for later on in life, and he will benefit from starting on this path early.
4. Weekend Plans
How about giving your child a block of time to decide what the family does on the weekend? Let him know about the non-negotiables—visiting with his grandmother, grocery shopping, etc., so that he understands the boundaries. And then see how he proceeds. Perhaps after time, with a little coaching he’ll ask to look at the weekend paper for ideas, or for you to call the local cultural center to see what’s happening. Not only does it help your child to plan out his time, it also shows him that there are things you can work towards: if you go to school all week, then on the weekend you can go bowling, for example. Teaching your child how to plan his time will help him in school and in the rest of his life!
5. Praise Them
Even when their ideas are not feasible, praise your child for trying. Tell them the attempt was awesome, and the things you like about their attempts at being more independent. Tell them that with practice, they will be amazing at whatever it is you are teaching them to do, whether it’s choose their clothes or the family’s weekend plans.
6. Be Patient
Patience, as is true with most things parental, is key. It takes time to learn how to do things for the first time, whether it’s tying shoes or choosing dinner options. Be patient and be kind, as you would hope someone would be with you in this circumstance (and hopefully they were!).
7. Test the Boundaries and Be a Safety Net
When it’s time to teach your child something new, like putting a load of clothes in the washer for the first time (when they’re a bit older), or taking a shower instead of a bath (when they’re a bit younger), be there for them, but let them try. If they feel like you are going to step in to save the day every time, they may be less likely to try. Let them try if you think it’s safe to do so, and be there if they need your help. This is a lesson for both the parent and the child in the child becoming more independent, incrementally and with supervision!
Being a more independent person can help to make your child less anxious and make their relationships as adults healthier. How do you teach your children healthy independence?